Coolest Demo Ever…Whiskey Ice

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Normal Heights, Adams Avenue is a cool, quickly renewing area in San Diego with a lot to offer so when we were going to kill an afternoon downtown we decided to check it out.  A quick internet search revealed a trendy craft cocktail bar called Polite Provisions on the corner of 30th and Adams and we decided that was the perfect spot to anchor our visit.  After a lovely walk among the  bungalows, built starting in the 1920’s,  mixed with apartment buildings back in the neighborhoods, we strolled down antique row on Adams Ave until we reached our destination of  Polite Provisions.

Polite Provisions

I mean, how cute is that?  Originally an old drug store on the corner, they have kept the feel of the neighborhood pharmacy counter with back and white checkered tile floors, wood shelves  behind the long bar, well dressed bartenders who will see to your every affliction and lovely, eclectic, old fashioned glassware.
We were lucky enough to score seats at the cheery bar and ordered from their encyclopedia of craft cocktails, nicely organized in thick menus that are constantly passed around patron to patron with lots of friendly discussion and advice.  After getting our noses out of that fun book, we looked around and saw at the back bar what looked like a snow machine in action.  Upon closer inspection we found out that a  very strong and capable man named Juan was busy taking thick slabs of ice and cutting them into perfect cubes that just fit into tumblers for whiskey.  I was completely mesmerized by the ice chips flying, the knife a blur, Juan’s total focus and control and the perfect cubes coming to shape so quickly in his capable hands. Juan agreed to be videoed.  Take a look at hand making ice cubes.

 

 

We know where we are going to go sit during the next heat wave!

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A Perfect Hour in Ocean Beach

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We had a fabulous party to go to in Point Loma, an hour to kill and we needed the right vibe…off to Ocean Beach, OB as we natives say.  It has been a long time since I have played around down there, Dan never has, and I am thrilled to report that some things never change!  The same skateboarders down the middle of the street, the same colorful youth hostel (no youth to be seen), the same eclectic crowd and anything goes (except prissiness) that makes it one of the few remaining authentic beach towns left in Southern California.

One of the best things about OB really is the diversity.  It isn’t from block to block, it is more like blink to blink.  Here’s 2 pictures taken from the  same spot on the sidewalk, Taken one right after the other. One facing East, the other West.

 

Those pictures were taken just in front of a very dark doorway to a bar.  The kind where the door turns to a hall parallel to the sidewalk so you can’t look directly in and see what’s going on in there.  No windows to peer through either.  We were looking for a drink and I can go for either a good dive bar or a fancy lounge but I was a bit leery about this spot.  For all of Ocean Beach’s attributes, there is definitely a rough element there too and I didn’t want to blithely walk into the wrong situation dressed for a party.  Dan sensed my apprehension and quickly peeked in, came out with a little smile at the corner of his mouth and said “It’s a bar.”  I could tell from the expression that it was OK, but he followed up with “It’s dark, but clean and not scary.”  So in we went.

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I don’t know how he could tell a thing with the glance he took.  I was blind for a good 3 minutes inside the dark interior.  It took that long for my eyes to adjust.  There was a country music song on the juke box, strike 1.  I did grab the back of a barstool at the ample bar and found a comfy padded seat so I was surprised, then as I swung it around (it was fixed to the floor) it let out a wretched squeak and I kind of fell in love with the place.  I don’t know why but somehow that luxurious seat with the tired sounding protest just made me feel so comfortable and happy.  The bartender ignored us for a comfortable amount of time, making it clear in the best  possible way that this was a bar for certain people only (we read that to mean there are some scary looking types in here, we don’t serve pupus or blended drinks and it’s cash only) and if that wasn’t ok with us we could leave, no harm no foul.  No way!  My eyes were adjusting, I was comfortable, we were being politely observed by a scant but eclectic mix of people and the music had changed to one of my favorite tunes from college.  Home Run!

Paciic Shores, we are now initiated.  If you ever have the opportunity you must go find this place at 4927 Newport Ave in Ocean Beach, CA.   We had definitely dove into another world.  Opened in 1941 this little jewel has luxuriously cushioned bar chairs, booths, a pool room and an extremely well curated juke box.  The underwater theme is over the top, campy, charming and somehow just exactly right.  The longest wall has alcoves with lovely, vivid underwater scenes painted and lit beautifully, above the bar is an elaborate structure that looks like it is made of shell and is in the shape of scallop shells, mermaids and bubbles are everywhere.  Here are  a few pictures, although there is no way to do it justice and you must visit for yourself.

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Mermaid, star of the bar

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Shell shaped structure over the bar

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Painted panels of ocean scenes in wall

Ben, the bartender on duty, was helpful and clearly proud of the place.  He explained how old it was, talked about the few times kids had kind of taken over the place over the years but that now that is not tolerated and that they are a busy popular fixture in OB.  He told us they don’t care about Yelp reviews, they’ve been there 75 years, they’re packed in the evening and they tell people if they don’t like it, leave!  Whatever they are doing, it has a friendly neighborhood vibe to it that immediately opened up and welcomed us.  We found it very hard to pull away from our new friends after only an hour, but we had a fantastic party to go to.  It was amazing to us that we came in strangers and left, laughing, joking with and waving to everyone as we left.  What a special place.  Thanks Ben,  Dan loved the muddled cucumber and Hendricks gin concoction that you claim is your one fancy drink!

Nano Brewery In North County San Diego

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Is it just me or is everyone facing the beer?

Dan and I were invited to a beer tasting party at WillRich Homebrew this past weekend and we were certainly eager to find out what they had cooked up over the brutal San Diego winter.   By that I mean the winter where we had to endure the phone calls from our friends and family members that live in other places that had epic bad weather all winter, while we had Camelot-like weather and barely felt guilty, but had to pretend like we did. Phew! This was our second tasting here, one year after our first, which was quite enjoyable so we had high hopes for the afternoon.

OK, we confess. This is a home brewing operation and not commercial, not available to the public, but it should be. More on that later!

We arrived to a hand written sign on the front door, “Beer Tasting, Come on In, Don’t Let the Dog Out”. Wow, brave party throwers, way to get party crashers! Richard and Susan’s adorable something-poo dog ran to meet us at the door with three big woofs which I correctly interpreted to mean “what did you bring me?” allowed us to admire him briefly and then went off looking for someone who was better equipped to fulfill his wishes. Susan greeted us more conventionally, very warmly, no woofing and she did not ditch us when we revealed no treats. She did however, urge us to scurry on out and get some liquid refreshment.

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“Step up to the bar! What can we pour you?”

Richard and his son William collaborate on this venture and they had set up a nice canopy and tables to display the eleven varieties (over achievers!!) of beer they had concocted and cover the coolers and taps necessary to supply their eager tasters. They had an excellent turnout for the party so they were very busy pouring, tapping, explaining and describing the beer.

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Synchronized Explaining. Like Father, Like Son

This season’s lineup was all clever galactic names like “Big Bang Brown” and “Satellite Steam Ale”.   They went from the lightest imaginable to very dark, and they even popped a bottle of mead! Ales, IPA’s and yup, that just exhausted what I can tell you about beers because frankly, I am not a beer person and I started socializing with some of the wonderful people at the party when Richard and William started talking to Dan about “hops ratios” and some such stuff.

One couple we really had a great time with, Glenn and Beth, kept us well entertained and engaged all afternoon. I kept trying to figure out who Glenn reminded me of though, and I am horribly embarrassed to have finally figured it out in the car on the way home! We were even discussing how much we love the show…he looks so much like Leonard, Johnny Galecki on Big Bang Theory. We had also discussed our awkward celebrity encounters and how we had probably walked right past a lot of famous people without noticing. It made me think for a quick second that I had done an extreme example of exactly that! But Glenn is much cuter, so I think I am safe. Susan, Richard and William have very cool friends that are fun to hang out with. It makes for a wonderful party but it didn’t exactly work out in their favor because none of us wanted to say goodbye to our newly met besties and we stayed well past the suggested end of the party as listed on the invitation to continue our conversation and camaraderie. Forgive us, excellent hosts, we were having such a good time!

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We were treated to a tour of the “brewery” itself during the festivities. This was impressive on many levels. First of all, who has time to stop in the middle of a party and lead a group of people on a tour? Masterful Richard, masterful! Secondly, this was set up in their garage. Now, we have a house that used to have inside parking for four cars but now has no inside parking at all. In fact, you can’t really get another bicycle in the garage. I would die before I would lead a party full of people into our garage! The liability alone makes me shudder. But Richard and Susan? Their garage is pristine! You could make beer in it!   They have designated a nice amount of space for the brewery and Richard and William have designed a great system that Richard kindly explained to us all. Someone pointed out that the freezer we were leaning on looked a little suspicious and I started thinking about the similarities of this operation to “Breaking Bad” and how if Jesse showed up I was going to be very excited and very scared at the same time. This is definitely more “Breaking Bad” light, as if it were written for the ABC Family channel. But hey, we’re in suburban North County San Diego! Nevertheless, I wander back out to the backyard and the sweet California sunshine.

The beers they produce in that pristine environment were pronounced by all as quite excellent. They had the eleven different varieties or styles and I was told that they all were very indicative of the style they were going for, but drinkable. I guess a lot of times the local breweries will push the styles to the extreme so that they are almost unpleasant but Richard and William kept the character of the styles without making them overwhelming to anyone who isn’t a fan of extremism. The two lightest of the beers I really enjoyed as they tasted more like a punch to me, a little citrusy and refreshing with barely a beer taste. They will be terrific for summer afternoons, just like Richard said they were going for.  With our thriving micro-brewery industry here in San Diego I think they should be considering a bigger operation. It really was unanimous, everyone had a favorite and everyone was impressed. It was certainly nice of these guys to invite so many of us over to help them “clean out” some of their stock. Any time guys, any time! Sorry Susan, you shouldn’t be such a good hostess. And William, you’re right, you should put out a tip jar.